By Bob Zany
‘It must be great to work only one hour a night,” fans tell me back- stage after almost every show. Well, yes and no.
I think about opening my At-a-Glance daily planner to let them see the
many tasks that fill virtually all of the preceding 12 hours leading up to each
performance. But I know better. Yet these responsibilities occupy me pretty
much from dawn to dusk during the majority of my supposed days off, too.
I’m not complaining, even though terrific jokes come from complaints. (For instance, on a recent flight from JFK to LAX, the guy sitting next to me bought the $10.99 Wi-Fi option but couldn’t log on. He
complained to the flight attendant, “It’s too expensive not to work.” I
pondered what the affordable price would be for him not to have it
work: $3.99?) I’m just saying the recipe for stand-up mixes a little funny
with a lot of business. Workdays for me revolve around writing material for everything from my traveling act to my syndicated appearances
and creating opportunities such as cohosting a podcast and reviewing
movies — provided I’m not finalizing upcoming gigs, doing media interviews, or booking flights, hotels and rental cars. I double, triple, and
quadruple as my own agent, manager, and publicist. I wear more hats
than Lady Gaga.
Even when off the clock, I wind up on the job. As often as not, the first
thing someone says when meeting me is, “Tell me a joke.” I tend to reply,
“Buy a ticket.”
Being viewed like I’m a clerk doling out free samples at Costco comes
with the territory. And occasionally I do treat people. Especially strangers
who don’t realize I sling zingers for a living. I make them laugh for 10 min-
utes or so, until one of the onlookers advises me, “You should be a come-
dian.” I then segue to my imminent engagement, hoping for converts. I
put patrons in the seats about half the time this way.
In fact, comedians must always be “on.” In between sets at the grammatically incorrect Cactus Petes Resort Casino in Jackpot, Nev., in May
2012 (OK, sometimes I “work” two hours a night, doing a pair of shows),
I walked by an older gentleman playing the penny slots. He recognized
me, which I appreciated, and said, “Hey, Bob Zany, what’s the joke of the
day?” which I didn’t. I answered, “You’re a winner!”
Because I talk to the audience during my routine, I’ve discovered that
other professions also must figure out how to handle this entitlement: law-
yers besieged by neighbors needing legal advice, chefs coaxed into whip-
ping something up for their children’s school, and so on. Onstage in Rock-
ford, Ill., I spoke with a dentist who said people he encounters outside his
office — at the gym, a restaurant, the DMV, a store — constantly open
their mouths in front of his face and plead, “Can you look at this?” I shot
back, “It could be worse. You could be a proctologist.”
Those who ask me to crack wise when I’m offstage or in my private life
are like leads to salesmen or bonus points on credit cards: reflecting poten-
tial clients and loyal customers. If I didn’t offer incentives and rewards, I’d
soon be out of work. I learned an invaluable lesson about making ends
meet from my father, a housepainter, who died at age 69 in 2002. When
he finished one home, he had to locate another. So when the curtain falls
after my last bit, it must rise somewhere else.
Said another way, a comedian requires perspective to endure in funny
business. I’m currently touring the country with my comedy partner Zan
Aufderheide in Zan vs. Zany, which we define as Burns and Allen meet
Sonny and Cher, with chaser of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Over dinner
one night Aufderheide, a relative newcomer to the industry, criticized the
accommodations of a Las Vegas venue we had played at and stayed at,
even though they were fairly nice. Last year at this time she would have
been lucky to land in motels where they leave the police lights and sirens
on for you, I kidded her. A few weeks after our run in Sin City, a promoter
in Urbana, Ill., forgot to reserve us rooms at the hotel we were headlining.
We had to drive an hour to find lodgings. That evening during her set at
the banquet hall, she apologized to me from the stage for griping about the
Las Vegas inconveniences. I firmly believe that without the bad we can’t
appreciate the good.
Bottom line, I try to get others to put their money where my mouth is.
But I can’t always say whatever I want, though fans assume I can. Once in
a while, I must follow somebody else’s rules or suffer the consequences
like the check never arriving. A few months ago, the entertainment man-
ager of a casino in Harrington, Del., instructed me not to make jokes
about losing money at the gambling establishment. I decided to open with,
“I don’t want to brag, but I took a nickel and turned it into $10,000 — that
I owe the casino.”
Actually, I only said that in my mind. I’m a pro. And I wanted to get paid.
That, too, is part of my one-hour job plus 12!
Comedian Bob Zany’s “Zany Report” is featured weekly on the
nationally syndicated “Bob & Tom” radio show. He performs and
produces stand-up shows at clubs, concert venues, casinos, and
resorts across the country. Zany cohosts a weekly podcast, The Bob
Zany Show with Zan Aufderheide; go online to sideshownetwork.tv.
Bob Zany Alone at the Movies can be heard on Rocket 101 FM in
Erie, Pa., with Mojo and A. C., and on KRRO 103.7 FM in Sioux Falls,
S.D., with Cade and Ryder. Recent film credits include 23 Minutes to Sunrise, a thriller
released earlier this year, and Close but No Cigar, Jay Kanzler’s 2011 documentary
about Zany’s career. Zany has made more than 1,000 national television appearances
and for 17 years was associated with The Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor
Day Telethon in front of and behind the camera. Go online to bobzany.com or facebook.com/
bobzanyfanpage; follow him on Twitter@bobzany; or email him at email@example.com.
Arnel Reynon illustration